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County jail delays cause of controversy among supervisors

ELIZABETHTOWN At the May 7 regular meeting of the Essex County Board of Supervisors, St. Armand Supervisor Joyce Morency asked how much delays in the opening of the county jail were going to cost. But she didnt get a definitive answer. During the meeting, supervisors addressed several problems resulting from delays in opening the Essex County Jail/Public Safety Facility, which is currently under construction in Lewis. When a resolution to extend the contract with BBL, the company overseeing the project was proposed, Morency questioned why the project was taking so long, and how much it would ultimately cost Essex County. Board Chairman Noel Merrihew said there was no definite date set for the jails opening because many details were being worked out that hadnt been included in the original plans. He said a July opening might be possible, and public tours would be offered. Its a wonderful facility, and youll all be very, very impressed, said Merrihew. Currently there is no date set for its opening, which had originally been projected for autumn of 2006. Newcomb Supervisor George Canon said it wasnt uncommon to have projects this size facing unexpected difficulties. Some supervisors put qualifications on their vote. Lewis Supervisor Anthony Glebus said that he would support the contract extension this time, but if the matter came up again in July, he would oppose it. I thought we were supposed to be open in January,said Glebus. Ill support it this morning, but not when it comes back around. The county board voted to extend the contract through July 1. Prisoner boarding expenses approved The county board also approved taking $375,000 from its fund balance to help pay for the boarding expenses for inmates. Sheriff Henry Hommes had budgeted funds for boarding inmates until February, but delays in moving into the new facility has cost the county. Fight for space The supervisors also briefly discussed whats going to happen to the old county jail, which is located in the center of the county complex. Merrihew proposed hiring an engineer to see if the old county jail was usable for record storage. We have a critical space problem, and I think we need to start the ball rolling, said Merrihew. Westport Supervisor Daniel Connell suggested the county seek out a New York State Archives and Records Administration (SARA) grant to fund the study. Other supervisors said it was premature to commit to using the space for records. Crown Point Supervisor Dale French said it would be more appropriate to address the issue in committee. Many county departments are expected to have demands on the space that is being freed by the jail and the relocation of the emergency service department to Lewis. Wilmington Supervisor Jeanne Ashworth agreed, adding that a committee to examine the countys space needs has been appointed, but has yet to meet. Merrihew withdrew the motion, deciding to bring the matter up in committee later this month. Moriah Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava and North Elba Supervisor Shirley Seney were absent.

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